Israel's 'Mubarak ally' Ben-Eliezer dies at 80

Israel's 'Mubarak ally' Ben-Eliezer dies at 80
3 min read
29 August, 2016
Israeli politician and military man credited with setting up Lebanon's notorious collaborator militia SLA dies while courts investigate several charges against him.
Binyamin Ben-Eleizer took a leading role in the IDF [Getty]

Former Israeli defence minister Binyamin Fuad Ben-Eliezer died on Sunday aged 80, after a long career marked by allegations of bribery, money laundering and military excesses in occupied Palestine and Lebanon.

Having retired from politics in 2014 amid legal troubles, the Iraq-born intimate of deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak struggled with several years of ill health which contributed to the end of his career.

In 2015, he was charged with accepting bribes, money laundering, tax evasion and fraud after a secret safe deposit box was discovered containing hundreds of thousands of undeclared dollars.

Ben Eleizer was unable to attend the trial, which was ongoing until when died, because of his poor health.

A career cut in conflict

After being drafted into the Israeli Defence Forces in 1954, Ben-Eleizer would gain prominence as a commander and general in some of Israel's most bloodiest campaigns against its neighbours.

During the Yom Kippur War, he served as deputy commander of the Hativ unit, followed by an appointment as divisional commander for the Lebanon area. During this time, Ben-Eleizer was charged with opening the Good Fence border between Lebanon and Israel and establishing the South Lebanon Army [SLA].

The formation of the SLA is remembered as one of the sorriest chapters in Lebanon's history, where recruits were drawn from the country's villages in order to serve Israel's interests.

During the calamitous conflict, the SLA carried out much of the Israeli state's dirty work, including manning the notorious al-Khiam 'prison' south of Israel's Lebanon military headquarters in Marjayoun. 

At al-Khiam, hundreds of Lebanese prisoners were detained without charge or trial, under excruciating conditions and regular torture. it is alleged that many of the captives were targeted for merely having relatives in Hizbollah, or for refusing to collaborate with Israel.

Crushing Palestinian dissent

As defence minister between 2001-2002, Ben-Eliezer engineered Operation Defensive Shield to crush Palestinian resistance to occupation in the West Bank during the Second Intifada.

A bulldozer tears down homes in Jenin destroyed during Israel's Operation Defensive Shield, May 2002 [Getty]

The operation resulted in the deaths of 497 Palestinians, including many children and non-combatants. Close to 1,500 Palestinians were also wounded, with around 7,000 arrested.

Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General at the time, called upon Israel to halt the mass operation due to its ferocity. The Israeli incursion wrecked large parts of the West Bank, where buildings including schools were destroyed, vandalised and used as outposts for Israeli soldiers.

Dealings with a despot

Known for his amiable relations with deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, Ben-Eliezer accompanied successive Israeli prime ministers on their visits to former strongman at the presidential palace in Cairo. The former Labor Party leader reputedly acted as an intermediary in order to ease tensions between the once-warring nations.

Even as Egypt's masses made it clear that Mubarak's reign was no longer tenable in 2011, the Israeli statesman personally called the embattled leader to voice his unerring support. Upon hearing of Ben-Eleizer's illness, Mubarak reciprocated the gesture with a phone call while still in self-imposed exile from Egypt's capital.